This article is about the 9th Bhopal Infantry and will help you to research the Battalion and those who served with it during the First World War. I have written separate articles about the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battalions and a series of guides to help you to research soldiers who served in the Indian Army during World War One. To view the articles click on the blue links below:
- 2nd Battalion, 9th Delhi Regiment
- 3rd Battalion, 9th Bhopal Infantry
- 4th Battalion, 9th Bhopal Infantry
- Researching Soldiers who Served in the Indian Army
The 9th Bhopal Infantry in the First World War
Lineage: Raised at Bhopal by Captain J. Peyton in 1859 from the remnants of the Bhopal, Gwalior and Malwa Contingents which had stayed loyal during the Indian Mutiny (1857-58). Originally designated the Bhopal Levy, in 1865 it became the Bhopal Battalion, then in 1903 the 9th Bhopal Infantry and in 1922 the 4th Battalion, 16th Punjab Regiment.
Class Composition of Battalion in 1914: 2 Companies of Sikhs, 2 of Rajputs, 2 of Brahmans and 2 of Musalmans. 1919: 1 Company of Sikhs, 1 of Rajputs, 1 of Brahmans and 1 of Musalmans.
Location in August 1914: The 9th Bhopal Infantry was stationed at Fyzabad (Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, India), having arrived from Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) on 2nd July 1914.
The 9th Bhopal Infantry was stationed Fyzabad when the First World War began in August 1914 and was mobilized for service as part of the 7th (Ferozepore) Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division. There is a lot of information available for the Regiment and I’d recommend combining the war diaries with the regimental history, both of which I have discussed below. The extract below was taken from the October 1914 Indian Army List which recorded the British officers serving with the Regiment. The majority of these officers became casualties during the war.
The 9th Bhopal Infantry arrived at Marseilles, France on 26 September 1914 and served on the Western Front until June 1915. During this period, the Regiment was decimated and had to rely on large drafts from other Indian regiments. The 9th Bhopal Infantry took part in the Battle of La Bassee, Festubert (1914), Givenchy and Second Battle of Ypres. In June, the Regiment was withdrawn to Egypt where the 9th Bhopal Infantry helped guard the Suez Canal as part of the 22nd Indian Infantry Brigade. After an uneventful period in Egypt, which allowed the Regiment to reorganize, the 9th Bhopal Infantry was sent to Mesopotamia (Iraq) in December 1915.
Portrait of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Lawrence Anderson 9th Bhopal Infantry who died of wounds on 29 October 1914. Anderson was severely wounded on 28 October at Neuve Chapelle. This portrait appeared in Bond of Sacrifice.
The 9th Bhopal Infantry initially served in Mesopotamia as part of the 21st Indian Infantry Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division. The Divison was sent to Mesopotamia to try and help the Anglo-Indian force relieve the 6th (Poona) Division at Kut-al-Amara. The 9th Bhopal Infantry took part in the Battles of Sheik Sa’ad and Wadi. It was at the Battle of Wadi on13 January 1916, that Sepoy Chatta Singh was awarded the Victoria Cross. Singh’s citation appeared in the London Gazette read:
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in leaving cover to assist his Commanding Officer who was lying wounded and helpless in the open. Sepoy Chatta Singh bound up the Officer’s wound and then dug cover for him with his entrenching tool, being exposed all the time to very heavy rifle fire. For five hours until nightfall he remained beside the wounded Officer, shielding him with his own body on the exposed side. He then, under cover of darkness, went back for assistance, and brought the Officer into safety.
The 9th Bhopal Infantry continued to serve in Mesopotamia after Kut-al-Amara fell in April 1916. The Regiment took part in the Battle of Istabulat on 21 April 1917 and from May onwards served on the Tigris Defences and lines of communication. In December 1918, the 9th Bhopal Infantry joined the 42nd Indian Infantry Brigade, 15th Indian Division. The Regiment returned to India in March 1919 and in 1922 became the 4th Battalion, 16th Punjab Regiment.
War Diaries of the 9th Bhopal Infantry
There are six war diaries for the Battalion and five have been digitized by the National Archives. To download these war diaries for a small fee click on the blue links below which will take you to the National Archives’ website. The only war diary which hasn’t been digitized covers the Battalion’s brief service in Egypt between June and November 1915. This war diary can only be viewed at the National Archives. I have copies of all the war diaries and have transcribed some entries below.
- Date: 01 August 1914 – 31 May 1915
- 7th (Ferozepore) Infantry Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division
- Reference: WO 95/3923/4
- Notes: A very good war diary with plenty of detail, especially regarding the Battalion’s activities in France in November and December 1914.
- Date: 01 June – 30 November 1915
- 22nd Indian Infantry Brigade, No.2 Section Suez Canal Defences
- Reference: WO 95/4428
- Notes: Another good war diary which is full of useful information. There is a list of British officers who left France for Egypt on 6 June 1915.
- Date: 01 December 1915 – 30 April 1917
- 21st Indian Infantry Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division
- Reference: WO 95/5139/5
- Notes: This war diary has been digitized and is available to download from the National Archives’ website.
- Date: 01 May – 30 September 1917
- Tigris Defences and Communications, Mesopotamia
- Reference: WO 95/5015/2
- Notes: Another very detailed war diary.
- Date: 01 October 1917 – 30 November 1918
- Tigris Defences and Communications, Headquarters and Troops, Kut-al-Amarah
- Reference: WO 95/5024/6
- Notes: An average war diary for a regiment serving on the lines of communications. There is a list of British and Indian officers present with the Regiment on 31 December 1917 and a list of British officers on 28 February 1918. There are no other appendices.
- Date: 01 December 1918 – 28 February 1919
- 42nd Indian Infantry Brigade, 15th Indian Division
- Reference: WO 95/5197/5
- Notes: An average war diary with no appendices.
Further Sources for the 9th Bhopal Infantry
A very good source of information for the 9th Bhopal Infantry and the British officers who served with it are its confidential reports held at the British Library: Confidential Reports on Regiments etc. These reports also contain the annual reports of the British officers serving with the Battalion. However, when the Battalion was abroad only its Depot and the British officers serving there were reported on. For information regarding the British and Indian officers who served with the 9th Bhopal Infantry, the Indian Army List should be consulted.
There is a regimental history Historical Record of the 4th Battalion 16th Punjab Regiment by Major C. C. Jackson. This book covers the history of the Regiment from 1818 to 1930 but the majority of the book is devoted to the 9th Bhopal Infantry’s service in the First World War. I’d recommend this book and if you combine it with the war diaries above you will have a very good picture of the Regiment’s service. The following appendices appear in the book:
- Roll of Honour 1914-1919 (including whether killed in action, died of wounds, died etc.)
- List of Honours and Awards in the First World War (with citations where applicable)
- Succession of Commanding Officers
- Roll of British Officers who Served with the Battalion from 1818 to 1914 and 1922 to 1930
- Roll of British Officers who Served with the Battalion on Field Service, 1914 to 1919
- List of Units who Supplied Drafts to the Battalion in the Field, 1914 to 1919
Extracts from War Diaries of the 1st Battalion, 9th Bhopal Infantry
01 August 1914 – 31 May 1915, France WO 95/3923/4
09 August 1914 – Fyzabad – 10.30 am- Orders to mobilize received. Preparations started immediately. British Officer on leave in India were wired for. Orders of recall for all ranks were prepared and the special mobilisation envelopes addressed.
3 pm The first batch of envelopes were ready to be despatched to the Post Office, the last batch was sent down at 5 PM.
6 PM Clerk returned from Post Office with a note from the Post Master saying he was quite incapable of any helpful action as it was Sunday. The orders could not be despatched therefore till the following morning.
29 August 1914 – Kiamari- Put to sea during afternoon. The fleet consisted of seven vessels escorted by the Royal Indian Marine Ship Northbrooke.
08 November 1914 – No sign of enemy. Promiscuous sniping took place as usual during the day and bombardment at times which increased towards the evening. Another ten casualties took place.
23 November 1914 – Festubert – Up to 7 am the Officer Commanding firing line reported no change in the situation. About 8 am orders were received to take up No.1 Company and occupy the support trench East of Le Plantin under Captains Apthorpe and Willis, and Lieutenant Balfour. At 9.32 am orders were received from the Officer Commanding Section to send up this Company to reinforce the 34th Pioneers which were on the left of the 2nd Company in the firing line.
At 11 am Officer Commanding of this second Company sent a message saying that the 34th Pioneers were being bombed out of their trenches and that the enemy would shortly be up to their flank, asking for assistance of the Guns and that the position was very critical. At 11.20 am a message from (?) was received saying that the 34th were being driven out and asking for supports. This was shewn to Officer Commanding Section ho had already sent up the 6th Jats to reinforce at 11.30 am and verbal message came in the telephone from Captain Gaskell saying the 34th had left their trenches and that he was being bombed out of his own trench and that the situation was critical. Directly (?) after this telephone communication was interrupted at 1.30 pm, a messenger who had been sent up about 1 1/2 hours before returned saying he was unable to reach Captain Gaskell as the enemy had got behind him (Gaskell).
At 2.30 pm some stragglers from the left of Captain Gaskell’s line came in and reported that the Company had been surrounded and that being on the left they had been unable to get away. In the meantime the General Officer Commanding Ferozepur Brigade had arrived and issued orders for the attack which was to take place at 4.30 pm.
In this attack the Company under Captain Apthorpe advanced with the 6th Jats and together with the 2/8th Gurkhas who had come up at night. These assaulted and retook the trenches on the left where Captain Gaskell’s Company had been and then reoccupied the trenches in which were found a few bodies of Captain Gaskell’s men and some Germans.
These trenches were occupied during the night of 23/24 November by this company under Lieutenant Balfour. Captain Apthorpe had been wounded in the assault and Captain Wills previous to this during the afternoon. Fighting in the trenches had taken place an officer of the 1/39th Garhwal Rifles informed the Commanding Officer that he had found the body of Jemadar Mullu Singh lying over a dead enemy with whom he had evidently had a struggle.
Casualties: Captains Apthorpe and Wills wounded. Lieutenant Fletcher and Captains Gaskell and Mortimer were among the missing. Indian officers killed: Subadar Faiz Ali Khan, Baiknath Singh and Jemadar Mullu Singh. Missing Jemadar Ramsurat Missir. Missing and Wounded: Mushtaq Ali.
Ranks: Killed 6, Wounded 43, and Missing 165.
01 June – 30 November 1915, Suez Canal Defences, WO 95/4428
28 October 1915 – Suez – Holiday. A short ceremonial parade was held at 7.30 am to commemorate the first time the regiment came into action on 28 October 1914 and had heavy casualties. A short speech was made to the men and the names of the men who were killed on that date were read out and the regiment presented arms to their memory, subsequently each class held their own ceremony in the lines to their departed friends. General Officer Commanding Brigade Brigadier General Watson C.I.E. M.V.O. very kindly came during the afternoon.